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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Monday, May 4, 2009

CHILDREN'S LITERATURE: SWEAR STILL BY THE MOON




In an earlier entry on the Apollo Poems celebrating man’s landing on the moon, I asked what in hindsight appeared as a cynical question: Now that the moon has been described as a rock, full of rocks, moonrocks, moondusts, and the like, would anyone still write poems about the moon?

In 1980, a Philippine children’s book writer, Roberto Alonzo, wrote Si Daginding (And Unang Daga sa Buwan)*, one of the books my grandchild, Chloe, is asking abuela and abuelo to read to her over and over again. The book, written in Filipino verse, has got the better of her curiosity. Her never ending questions as she listens are: What’s that? What does it mean in English? Why do the friends of Daginding-mouse still think the moon is made of cheese not rocks? [*Daginding (The First Mouse on the Moon]

Alonzo, of course, is one of those poets who still write about the moon and the romance that goes with it. His Daginding describes the effort of a mouse who, through herculean effort, built a “rocketship” to get to the moon, and prove once and for all to mousedom that the Moon was a Great Ball of Cheese. And would that not mean a huge supply of food for the voracious mice on earth?

His use of poetic personification creates a metaphor for human yearning to get to the moon, the quintessence of love and romance. Man/Mouse dreams are unified in Alonzo’s mission of telling a children’s story where he succeeds in celebrating man’s/mouse’s scientific venture of building a vehicle to get to the moon.

Obliquely, of course, this teaches the young reader (from 3-10, the author recommends) that science’s effort will make wonderful things happen on Earth and in the heavens. It also alludes to character education values like ambition, perseverance, allegiance to excellence, and the like.

When he gets to the moon, nevertheless, just as the U.S. astronauts found out, Daginding disappointedly discovers that the moon is a vast expanse of rocks and not a morsel of cheese around! The Moon is not made of Cheese. He immediately turns around, boards his ship, and goes back to mousedom with the sad, bad news that the supply of cheese could not materialize.

Nobody would believe him that the Moon is a Rock! And Alonzo ends the story with the lines that bring us back to the romance that still lingers around the Moon.

At sabihin man niyang and buwan ay bato,
Ang tingin pa rin ng lahat, ito’y masarap na keso!**

[**And even if he tells them the moon is a rock,
All of them still look at it as delicious cheese!]

And astronauts may come and astronauts may go, but the Moon will still be their Great Ball of Cheese.

In more recent times, Rev. Fr. Francisco R. Albano, Philippine poet and seminary rector, wrote his Apollo by Moonlight (a group of poems celebrating the Man on the Moon saga). He, too, comes back to earth with Alonzo’s/Daginding’s message:

Poem 5.

Swear still by the moon.
No footprints will ever make it constant,
cease becoming like the flow of love.
The seas say so looking up like howling
dogs unknowing of the meaning of night.
As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be, undiscovered,
the moon is a virgin of metaphor,
plays on the mind with light and shadow.
Swear still by the moon,
Romance is when we differ in our seeing.

“Is the Moon a Great Ball of Cheese, abuelo?”, is a question I dread to answer with the ex cathedra authority of a grandfather. Let brave souls like children’s book writer, Alonzo and illustrator Renato E. Gamos, preserve the romance of the moon. Science will overtake these little souls soon enough.

“The moon is a virgin of metaphor,” Fr. Albano assures us.

Swear still by moon. And I will tell Chloe there is huge face of a man in the moon. On a bright moonlit night, during the full moon, that face will smile. That smile is for all the curious Chloe’s who ask questions like: If the moon is made up of rocks, why does it look like a pizza? Why does it get sliced smaller, until it is gone? Why? Why?

If her abuela can’t answer her, I will not even venture an obiter dictum. Nor will I hazard a little white lie that her science-teacher mother will condemn as unscientific! (No, Dad. We do not encourage the myth of Santa Claus!) I will go quietly out to the yard and pretend to rake the leaves. If she pursues me, I will ask her to look at the sky, and search for the moon with me, while I earnestly pray:

Heavenly Host, Father, and Grandfather/Grandmother of all children who ask WHY before they have even turned 4, 7, 10, or 15, please help me explain: Into every human life, some magic must fall.


2 comments:

features/rosie said...

sir -

im out for words

i love the moon

and your story

thank you

i was one student of sir ganni at dlsu, way way back our creative writing classes

i follow your blog, it inspires me

good morning po,
rose

Albert B. Casuga said...

Thank you, Rose. Keep on writing. I am happy to note you also teach now. Good luck.